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Conference realignment: Hampton to leave MEAC for Big South

The Pirates are the second team to announce a move to the Big South this week and will begin play in the conference in 2018.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Hampton v Virginia Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference is going to look very different very soon.

Savannah State has already announced that it will begin a transition out of Division I, and now, one of the conference’s most successful schools is bolting for greener pastures.

The Hampton Pirates will leave the MEAC and join the Big South, according to several reports. Steven J. Gaither of HBCU Gameday broke the story Wednesday night.

According to a release from the Big South, Hampton will begin its membership with the Big South on July 1, 2018, for all sports except for men’s lacrosse.

Hampton joins USC Upstate as the two schools who have announced moves to the Big South. USC Upstate announced yesterday that it would leave the Atlantic Sun.

“Hampton’s rich history and tradition both athletically and academically aligns perfectly with the ideals and core values of the Big South Conference,” Mary Grant, Big South President and UNC Asheville Chancellor, said in a release.

The move would make Hampton the second Division I HBCU — along with Tennessee State — to not be a member of the MEAC or SWAC. With the departures of Hampton and Savannah State, this would also make the MEAC a nine-team football conference, as UMES and Coppin State don’t have teams.

For the Big South, Hampton will be the fourth Virginia school, joining four in South Carolina, and four in North Carolina. When conference play begins, this will mean less traveling for the Pirates, as the MEAC spans from Delaware to Florida.

For Hampton, success in the Big South might be an uphill climb. In KenPom, Hampton is typically one of the top MEAC teams, but that means hovering around No. 290. So far this season — and yes, it’s a very small sample size — Hampton is No. 310 in KenPom, which is above just two Big South teams, Longwood, and Presbyterian.

Since 2010, Hampton is 8-9 against Big South teams, including a pair of losses to USC Upstate.

The Pirates have just one Big South opponent on their schedule this season, facing Gardner-Webb on Dec. 17.